Monday, May 13, 2019

Grass Widow Season

The eastern Columbia River Gorge lies in the Cascade Mountain's rain shadow.  Due to this location, it's open, grassy slopes receive a higher proportion of rain-free days during winter months.  Beginning in mid-February, sun-starved hikers jonesing for a dry trek flock to the Gorge east of Hood River.  As an added bonus, this area boasts the very first spring wildflowers.  The elusive purple grass widows normally begin unfurling their blooms in March.

They're back!

In the month of March I'm usually still skiing, and often miss out on peak grass widow time.  But this year, freshly returned from my Utah ski trip, I was ready a change in activities - time for a spring hike!

Oak forest

So on a sunny, mid-March Friday, I pointed my car east towards the Catherine Creek Trailhead.  This area has the reputation for the finest and earliest grass widow bloom.

Catherine Creek crossing

From the parking lot, I spied the first patch of these tiny lavender blooms dotting the adjacent grassy field.  Following the trail through this first meadow took much longer than expected - I wanted to photograph as many of these lovely flowers as possible.  Normally the highest concentration of grass widows are found adjacent to the parking lot, and I was afraid this would be the only place I'd see them (lucky for me was I wrong about that!)

Old ranch corral

After an extended photography session, I tore myself away from the meadow, and followed an old road as it descended into an oak forest, crossing Catherine Creek itself, and then gradually climbed past an abandoned corral.

Lovely grass widow

Then the old road climbed again, through a ponderosa pine forest, until transitioning into trail that quickly intersected onto a wide, grassy slope.  Mt Hood popped above the horizon, it's gleaming white summit making a fine subject for my camera lens.

Mt Hood sighting

And in this grassy meadow were more grass widows.  Quite a large concentration, they beckoned to be photographed.  I ended up adding several dozen more images to my memory card.

Another purple beauty

Oh the views were stupendous!  Mt Hood anchored the western skyline, while steep cliffs and bluffs lining the mighty Columbia River stretched to the east.

Better mountain views up high

After spending the better part of a half hour scenery gazing in the high meadow,  I reluctantly retraced my steps back downhill.  But little did I know the best was yet to come!

Never a shortage of flowers to photograph

Instead of heading back towards the old corral, I opted to return on a loop trail that followed the top of a rocky ridge.  Descending towards this ridge, I came upon a huge patch of grass widows.  The best concentration yet, the ground here was absolutely purple with blooms.

I liked this pair the best

Grass widows were everywhere!  The further I walked downhill, the denser the flower patches became.

Purple slopes

At one point, the top of the ridge was a thick stripe of purple from so many grass widows.

Flowerful canyon rim

The early afternoon sun began to light up the eastern Gorge, turning the river into a lovely shade of blue.

Columbia River views

I even spotted a rare patch of white grass widows amongst the flower fields.

Found a patch of white grass widows

After capturing several hundred images of scenery my creativity, and my camera, began to tire.  Wildflower overload!

Best bloom in a long time

Still, it was the best grass widow bloom I'd ever witnessed at Catherine Creek.

Looking east down the Gorge

I captured a few more images of the always-scenic Columbia River Gorge before finally returning back to my car.

One final image!

A great way to spend a sunny March morning.  Although only a 3-mile hike, the Catherine Creek Trail packed a lot of good stuff into such a short distance.

Hike number 8 done!  #52hikechallenge


  1. I've not heard grass widow flowers. So pretty and looks like a beautiful day out to photograph them and Columbia river gorge. Such a beautiful place to see and 📷! Good job Linda! I enjoy seeing your photos. Take care!

  2. What scenery. Every time I read your posts I think I must visit that part of the world one day.

  3. Hello, beautiful views of Mt Hood and the river. The Purple blooms are beautiful. What a gorgeous sight to see. Lovely collection of photos. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy new week!

  4. Beautiful! I love how different the WA side of the gorge is from the OR side...plenty of variety for you to choose from.

  5. Yes, a brilliant way to start a sunny March day and the views of Mt Hood are stupendous!

  6. I never heard of Grass Widow wildflowers--they are beautiful and so were the views on your hike

  7. Beautiful flowers, beautiful name! :)


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